I have a not-so-forgiving little black dress to get into for New Year’s Eve. And in between now and then I have a cookie swap and a couple of holiday parties to attend. So, with that dress as my goal, these 10 tips should help me wear it happily.
1. Eat breakfast.
Breakfast gives me a much-needed energy boost for the rest of the day. But perhaps more importantly (at least this time of year!), research shows that people who are most successful at losing weight eat breakfast every day. There are 3 things to include to make your breakfasts healthy: whole grains and lean protein to help you stay full right through until lunch, and some fruit for added fiber. (Try these delicious breakfast recipes that fight fat.)
2. Plan for the occasional treat.
Studies suggest that feeling deprived—even if you are consuming plenty of calories—can actually trigger overeating. Making any food off-limits just increases its allure: you can’t avoid a trigger food your whole life, but you can learn how to eat the foods you binge on in moderation. If cookies are your downfall, it might be too tempting to keep in your house—but you can learn to enjoy it in a “safe” environment. Bake a batch and take them to a friends house or host a cookie swap and enjoy them among friends. (Find irresistible diet-friendly cookies here—all 100 calories, or less!)
3. Fill up on fiber.
Boosting your fiber intake is one way to help prevent weight gain—or even promote weight loss. Recent research showed that boosting fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed resulted in losing about 4 1/2 pounds over the course of 2 years. Try it for yourself. If you’re consuming 2,000 calories per day, aim to increase your fiber by 16 grams. (Click here for delicious high-fiber recipes to help you boost fiber and slim down.)
4. Give up grazing.
Yes, eating regularly will help prevent you from feeling deprived and hungry, but grazing can easily supply a meal's worth—or more—of calories. Plan four “eating episodes” each day—three meals and a snack—spaced at regular intervals to avoid going long stretches without eating (which can also trigger overeating). At each, include a little protein for additional staying power. (Keep hunger at bay with these yummy snacks in 100-, 150-, 200- and 250-calorie increments.)
5. Boost exercise.
What you eat—or “calories in”—is only one half of the weight-loss equation. Exercise is equally important. Set a weekly goal to burn 1,000 calories through “programmed” aerobic exercise—such as brisk walking or jogging, cycling or rowing. And try to add activity into your everyday routines too. (Here are 6 ways to exercise without even trying.)
6. Keep a food diary.
Recording everything—the holiday cookie binge as well as the carrots and celery—makes you accountable for what you eat and can be incredibly motivating. And keeping track of your calories can help you lose weight, too, as it helps tip you off to behaviors that lead to weight gain.
7. Eat with intention.
Have all your meals in a designated place without distractions (i.e., not in front of the TV or at your desk in front of your computer). Eat slowly, stopping to put your fork down between bites, feeling yourself becoming fuller. Making an effort to be mindful no matter what you’re eating can help break the tendency to binge, experts say.
8. Hide tempting foods.
When office workers were given candies in clear dishes to place on their desktops, they helped themselves to candy 71 percent more often than a similar group that was given the same candy in opaque dishes so the candy wasn’t visible, according to research out of Cornell University. The same goes for your snacks at home: stash the chips inside a cupboard and keep the apples out on the counter.
9. Make overeating a hassle.
The more stops you introduce in getting a food—such as needing to open a package or having to thaw something frozen—the more opportunities you have to ask, “Am I really hungry?” Repackage cookies in single-portion bags (or pay more for individually portioned snacks); wrap leftover slices of lasagna individually in foil and freeze.
10. Think small.
If you want to have your fruitcake and eat it, too, try simply controlling portions. A salad plate or kid-size plate is perfect for your main meal. Use a small bowl for soup and a white-wine glass instead of a big red-wine glass.